Sam has been afraid of water since he was very small. There was no rhyme or reason to it, he was simply terrified by the prospect of doing much more than taking a tub bath and as soon as he was allowed to, he opted for showers.
Gary and I both love water. Gary grew up in Hawaii and spent a lot of time in the ocean--he is an extremely strong swimmer. My father was on a swim team in high school and water has always been be a second home to him so swim lessons both by him and the Red Cross were an important part of my childhood. Though I was certainly no athlete, and not especially strong or fast I took swim classes in college for the easy A and the sheer pleasure of doing something graceful--so unlike me on my feet. Naturally, we set about imparting this to our children. To one degree or another the older three all range from just competent to strong, with the strongest being Joseph.
Sam wanted nothing to do with swimming. He'd put his face in the water as requested and come up in near tears. Float on his back in the shallows with us guiding him through the steps, then quickly stand up, gasping, his eyes wide with fear. Every summer we tried and backed off when it was plain we were just re-affirming his fear. Beginning last year, we took a completely hands off approach. He'd either get over it, or he wouldn't and it wasn't the end of the world if he didn't. So he'd sit in the water at the edge of the lake or go in as deep as his waist when he was feeling brave. When he went to camp, he found that he wasn't alone in this and chose to hang out with the other non-swimmers in the shallow end.
Joseph is at the other end of the spectrum. He is completely at home in the water and has been since he was a toddler (a scary kind of confident that required constant vigilance). As soon as I was sure he'd retain the lessons, I taught him the back stroke, the American Crawl aka the Australian Crawl aka the front crawl (probably the most pc name) and the basics of the breast stroke. He mastered them all and was making smooth progress through the water almost immediately. The fact that Sam couldn't swim really bothered Joe. This is integral to this particular boy and is why I hope he'll consider being a teacher. If he derives pleasure from something, he wants everyone else to share in it.
Let me teach you to swim, he's said to Sam repeatedly over the last few years. Sam waved him off.
Let me teach him how. I can help him past being afraid, he said to us.
We didn't so much reject his offer so much as we kind of ignored it. This is a common parental mistake, but you'd think I'd know better by now.
Yesterday, while Sam and I were watering the garden, Joe approached and asked Sam if he'd like to go.
Ready to be somewhere cooler, Sam said yes, he'd like to sit in the shallows. Joe asked if they could hike down to Circle Drive--a lakeside swimming area in the middle of our neighborhood. Kids congregate there during the summers.
After much debate, Gary and I decided it would be best if dear ol' Dad tagged along. However he did promise he would keep his distance, as Joe has become quite sensitive to us cramping his fifteen year old style (after all, there might be girls . . .). Toting along a water bottle and his copy of The Stand, which he's re-reading this summer, Dad parked himself in a shady spot and left the boys mostly to their own devices.
Two hours later they returned. Sam came bounding in the door, smiling from ear to ear. "MOM! I swam! I went under water and I kicked the way Joe showed me and I SWAM!"
Stunned, I congratulated him.
"You know what helped Mom?" Sam asked.
I was very interested to know.
"Joe gives good directions." My gracious to a fault youngest glancing his brother's way, "But also, Joe told me to ask God to take away my fear and I did and he did."
Joe fixed me with a look over his brother's head. I told you so.
Yes, Joseph you did. And I will remember it.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.2 Timothy 1: 7